Category Archives: Philosophy of life

It was great before

Freedom for Honecker picA phrase I heard often in the former GDR (German Democratic Republic, aka East Germany) just after the Wall came down in Berlin at the end of 1989 was how great things had been beforehand. Not everything was as the media would have us believe. Yes, there was the STASI (State Security Police) and the regime that prevented East Germans from travelling to the West. Yes, the East German economy wasn’t in great shape (even though it was one of the more efficient economies in the Eastern Bloc). And the East Germans knew their West German cousins – the so-called ‘Wessis’ – were revelling in a wonderland of endless consumer choice. Or so they had heard.

However, endless choice isn’t everything.

With it comes responsibility, transparency, competition. All of these can liberate. But they can become a heavy burden too. And this is what East German people found out after 1989, when a common lament around the Bohemian bars and clubs of Leipzig’s trendy university district was ‘Well, it’s okay now, but it was great before.’

In my current work in progress, I examine this dialectic. Did Germany throw the baby out with the bath water after 1989? Is capitalism really the best way forward? Maybe communism was flawed at the end of the twentieth century but it wasn’t all bad. My protagonists debate this from their western standpoint with their East German counterparts. Ultimately, they don’t know in which the direction things will go, that come 2016, almost all traces of the communist values they once knew will be gone. Good or bad? Is freedom the ultimate prize for which you should sacrifice everything else?


Comments Off

Filed under Philosophy of life

See these eyes so green

See these eyes so green
I can stare for a thousand years
Colder than the moon
It’s been so long
And I’ve been putting out fire
With gasoline

How strange that the last scene of the last film I watched this weekend should have been this one:

So powerful. So much so that my teenage boys sat watching this transfixed, afterwards waxing lyrical about how amazing the track was – not a usual occurance while listening to music I like, I can assure you.

I identify with this scene and with this track on so many levels, it almost defies words. But I’ll try to explain. The inherent taste of revenge being a dish best served cold is what powers this track, but there’s so much more. I’ve always loved green eyes, in themselves a rarity, and put them into the faces of significant characters in my novels. There’s something enigmatic, creative, super-intelligent about them. Show me a stupid green-eyed person – I don’t think I’ve ever met one. The emotion in the track is so delicately balanced, it’s exquisite. The undercurrent of rage that sits just below that icy exterior sends chills down my spine. It’s a masterpiece.

Universe1And the idea of the eye in itself is a recurring motif in much of what resonates for me. Take the most recent ‘photograph’ released by NASA of the known universe.

It looks a bit like a human eye. I know this may be wishful thinking on my part, but wouldn’t that be great? The eyes are the window to the soul? But also to the entire universe.

David Bowie is dead after a long battle with cancer but his legacy lives on. His intense creativity and boundary-breaking work will continue to inspire and encourage the rest of us to be more than we thought we could be, do more, think more, and most importantly of all, create more. His ethos was to go with the creative flow, wherever that happened to take him.

See these eyes so green? Hopefully, they are still around somewhere in the soul of our eternal universe.

Farewell David Bowie.

Comments Off

Filed under Philosophy of life

Age of the cyborg

A guy named Yuval Harai hosted at discussion session at Intelligence Squared yesterday. By the time I got to hear of it, the event was sold out. A disappointment, as this sounds like one interesting guy.

His premise is that we have already begun merging with computers, our reality is already no longer what it was, what it has been for the last 10,000 years.

Read Yuval’s Harai’s recent interview with the Guardian – simply fascinating.

Our future in the hands of the social and digital media giants

For example, this:

‘Only now, the decisions are being taken by “a small international caste of business people, entrepreneurs and engineers”. Governments have become “managers”, he says. They have no vision, “whereas meet the people in Google, in Facebook, they have tremendous visions about the future, about overcoming death, living for ever, merging humans with computers. I do find it worrying that the basis of the future, not only of humankind, the future of life, is now in the hands of a very small group of entrepreneurs.”’

Me too. The likes of Facebook (let’s say), should not have more information about the British public than the Government, but my concern is that they may do – and companies such as these do not have the elected and moral obligation to look after people that governments have. They could do whatever they wanted with their data. And we’re giving it to them by the truckload.


This, also, is significant:

“I suddenly had a tool to scientifically observe directly my mind… and I realised I had no idea who I really was. I had this fictional story in my head but the connection between that and my reality was rather tenuous.”

The need to still and control the mind is important, nowadays more than ever. Reality is not an obvious path and it’s easy to get pulled this way and that by emotions. Mindfulness is not something preached by many of the world’s religions, but maybe the Buddhists have it right –  it should be.

Comments Off

Filed under Philosophy of life

Interstellar – a film about death or love?

interstellarThis week a dear uncle of mine died. After his death which came too soon after that of his younger brother less than a year ago, I was reminded yet again of my views on death.

Well, I say my ‘views’. What I really mean is my ‘doubts about’.

For something else happened before either of my uncles died: my mum dreamed of my grandmother. In her dream, Nan (as I called her) was trying to warn her of something. Being a sensible science-biased kind of a person, my mum put it down to her own subconscious telling her that her younger brother was ill. However, she was left with a feeling that this wasn’t all. Shortly after her dream her younger brother was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer. He died but not long after that her older brother also fell ill.

In the long chain of life her brothers had linked hands and decided not to let go.

One night, not long before my second uncle died, I sat down to watch the film, Interstellar. Expecting the usual Hollywood blockbuster, an action-packed roller coaster to take my mind off things for a while, I was surprised by the emotional blow the film dealt.

It took my breath away.

Granted, there’s a lot wrong with it – like a fair amount of the logic ties itself up in paradoxical knots. But I’m happy to grant it the artistic licence it deserves. The ideas therein were sound, the philosophy perfect. Unsure at the beginning, I then got well and truly hooked at the point where Cooper, Amelia and the crew touch down on a planet beyond a wormhole the other side of our galaxy in order to find fellow scientists who had travelled there a decade before. Given that time does strange things on the other side of the hole in space (yeah, a big given, but I bought it), every second they spend on the planet’s surface costs them many earth years. In short, the longer they spend down there, the more their loved ones back on earth age and the less likely they are to see them again.

A setback occurs and they end up on the planet for an hour, something that costs them decades of earth time.

In the meantime their loved ones, and in particular Cooper’s two children, have aged decades and have left them 22 years’ worth of messages on the comms system. As Cooper sits down to view all his messages, he sees that his kids have grown up, that tragedy has befallen his son’s family, that his daughter – now herself a scientist – is bitter, crippled by her belief that her father is not coming back. That he might be dead, his non-response to her messages no comfort to her year in year out.

This is how we feel when our loved ones die, isn’t it?

Where do they go? Into what strange universe beyond our reach? Do they hear us when we call out to them, as the years trickle by? Are they trying to get a message back? What if they are really there, but the space time their consciousness has moved into so removed from us, the messages they send to us are not what we might imagine? Just as Murph’s ‘ghost’ is really Cooper who finds himself in the ‘Tesseract’ fifth dimension after his travel back through the black hole on his way back to earth.

What is death then, after all? What happens when we die? Do we still exist somewhere, even if it is only in people’s minds? Or do we continue to exist, in another dimension, in another time?

The love between Cooper and his daughter and, to a lesser extent, between Amelia and her lover – another scientist lost in space a decade before – is what drives them to keep hunting for something that will help them understand the universe better, that will help them (and the human race) continue to survive, to prevail. Love and death, so intertwined, one unable to exist without the other but both vying for dominance in this great, dark multi-dimensional world.

The film, Interstellar, is about both. Which wins? I don’t know. And I don’t know the answer in real life either.

In another twist of fate my mum chose a poem to read at my uncle’s funeral. Not a fan of Sci Fi, she hadn’t seen Interstellar. However, can you guess which poem she read?

‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’


Comments Off

Filed under Philosophy of life